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Check expiry date before popping pills

Medications lose their efficaCy after the expiry date. If the efficaCy is less, the drug won’t help a patient in controlling sugar, BP or blood clots
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Muscat: Can I safely take a medication if it has reached the expiration date? Which drugs should never be used past their expiration date? For many patients, these questions arise because medications can be expensive to replace expired ones. But is it safe to use expired medicines? Doctors say one should not take medicines which are beyond use date. The US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) said one should not use expired medicines because of potential toxic risks. For example, blood thinners, which prove less effective and can lead to serious complications.

Dr K P Raman, senior cardiologist, said there are three issues. “The first one is the efficacy. Does it deteriorate after the expiry date? Secondly, do the adverse effects increase after the expiry date? Lastly, any ill health after consuming expired medicine will haunt the user’s mind. Did it happen because I took expired medicine? It may be, in reality, a coincidence. However, the patient will blame the doctor and may even sue him/her.”

“Because of these reasons, I will not prescribe expired medicines to any patient. Moreover, the law prohibits it. But I, being a doctor, know very well that most medicines are safe and effective after the expiration date, at least for a couple of years, and I consume myself being fully aware of which expired medicines. I should avoid, for example, Tetracyclines, Nitroglycerin, insulin, etc. There is, in fact, a big list. Nevertheless, I do not recommend self-medication. One also should take into account how the expired medicine was stored. Was it kept in the recommended temperature zone or in a hot, humid place?” The US FDA conducted a study on 100 drugs and found that 90 per cent of medicines are safe and effective even 15 years after expiry.

To ensure potency and efficiency do not store medicines in bathroom cupboards (hot and humid). Store them in a dry and cool place. Do not leave them in vehicles in hot weather. Keep them in tight bottles.

Dr Dilip Singhvi, a specialist in Internal Medicine, said, “As per the law, it is mandatory to have the expiry date mentioned on each medicine.”

The expiration date on a drug does stand for something, but probably not what you think it does. This is the date at which the manufacturer can still guarantee the full efficacy and safety of the drug. If the efficacy is less, the drug won’t help a patient in controlling sugar, BP or blood clots.

If expired medication is taken, a person may have an allergic reaction to it. Liver or kidney damage is likely from expired tetracycline medication. Therefore, it is important to check the expiry date before taking the medication, and properly dispose of the expired medication.

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